I worked out in the gym last Friday. I’m lucky that my leukemia still lets me do that. Admittedly I didn’t put in as much time as I might otherwise have. I’m probably not going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger anytime soon, but it was a good workout.

I did some time on the machines, then some free weights, and finally the treadmill. It felt good to get back to an exercise routine.

I’m trying to keep in mind that there is still a lot I can do besides sitting on my butt watching NetFlix. (Well, I still do that but only after I’ve done something healthy!)

I think it’s possible to live life with Leuk more positively if we can keep our minds and our bodies active. For me, keeping my body moving helps my attitude remain positive. The last several weeks I’ve been in a bit of a funk. I managed to drive my wife to work and keep the house clean but, with a few exceptions, the rest of the day was not very productive. I felt tired and very unmotivated.

I can’t tell you that all your days will be sunshine and rainbows. Many of you know that even better than I do. The important thing is that we find ways to pull ourselves out of dark moments that sometimes beset us. Leuk has moved in. He’s is a part of our lives now. That doesn’t mean we just give up.

Some of you cannot go to the gym. Some, I’m sorry to say, have to live a less active life because he is making you just too tired. If this is you please do not feel guilty about not being able to be more active or able to help out around the house. Do what you can. Once you start doing whatever you are able to you will be surprised at how it improves your look on life.

Leuk is an S.O.B. No doubt about that. He may have a hold on our bodies, but not our minds. We are in control of our thoughts.

So, for now, I’m thinking life is pretty good.

Remember those posts I did about my “Occult fracture” and the “MRI”? Well, I haven’t yet mentioned the results. It was nothing as heal-able as a fracture. It wasn’t a fracture at all. I have arthritis in my hip.

What the heck? (Better known as WTF.) That’s supposed to be an old people’s disease. It’s really not all that bad and the pain comes and goes. On bad days it makes me limp a little and on good days I don’t feel it at all. In fact I have nothing to complain about really. It’s fairly mild.

But, geez. One more thing? Holy crap.

Note: This post is based on my own feelings about the relationship between stress and leukemia. The very fact that it is based on my opinion means it is not scientific. I can’t say for sure that there is any link between Leuk and high stress levels, in fact even with all the studies no one is certain.

Except for a run of flu episodes during my teenage years, I have enjoyed good health throughout most of my life. That changed in September of 2009 when Leuk first showed up.

Prior to being diagnosed with leukemia I was under intense stress for several years. In fact it was non-stop from 2001 through 2008 with a couple more years of ‘coming down’ afterwards. I don’t want to go into my personal life here and tell the actual causes of that stress but I can use two symptoms to indicate just how bad it was.

Blood pressure: My blood pressure is very good, usually about 110/68, sometimes 106/67. But during a particularly hard time it shot up to 130.

Intestinal issue: In 2008 my small intestine tied itself in a knot. That isn’t the medical term but that is essentially what happened. The pain felt like I’d been stabbed with a knife. It could have been life threatening and I had to have surgery to take care of it. The doctor commented that it was unusual for a man of my age and health to have such a problem. He usually saw it in patients who had had previous surgeries on their intestines.

Leuk arrived just over a year after in 2009. From my perspective the link is indisputable.

It has been shown that stress can suppress the immune system. But does a weaker immune system lead to cancer? Well, there is no conclusive evidence. You can find research that argues for and against it.

All I can say is I was very healthy before Leuk arrived. But then, after enduring eight hard years of constant, 24 hour, oppressive stress he came knocking.

I also have evidence of a more positive nature. If you look at my blood test history (see Score Card page), you will see a constant increase in white blood cell and lymphocyte counts, but over the last few  years those numbers have leveled out – going up and down but not continuing the steady climb of previous years.This follows almost exactly the time period when I finally was recovering from those dark years. I have continued to gradually let go of that time and now live a much more peaceful life.

So. I plan to start going to bed earlier and getting up before everyone else for a few minutes to meditate. Not any religious or ‘New Agey’ crap, but simple sitting, relaxing, and clearing my mind. We’ll see how it goes. Besides, even if stress had nothing to do with my leukemia, keeping myself more relaxed will have a positive effect on the quality of my life.

Here’s some links on the subject you might be interested in: Effect of Stress on Blood Cancers, Cancer Related Insomnia, Psychological Stress and Cancer, Do Stress Responses Promote Leukemia?, Meditation for People with Cancer, Massage Therapy for People with Cancer, Yoga for Cancer Patients.

I’ve updated my Score Card page. The most current lab test showed a slight increase. I am slowly creeping up in numbers but still doing okay according to my doctor.

My White Blood Cell and Lymphocyte counts continue their slow rise. But my Red Blood Cell count stays steady.

(You can click the chart image below to get a larger view.)

Blood test results

Labor Day weekend my wife and I went sailing. We had a great trip except on the day we headed home.

The first day we motored to Sucia Island and stayed the night. We arrived late and had dinner on the boat.

Early the next day we went to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. The harbor was crazy busy, We radioed in for a slip. The Harbormaster had to put us and several other boats on hold as he tried to find slips for all of us. He sounded like an airline traffic controller, bringing each of us in for a landing. About four boats, including ours, motored around in circles waiting our turn.

We stayed the whole day and overnight in Roach Harbor. Our boat looked tiny and old next to all the others. Most boats were in the $200,000 to $1,000.000 range. I felt like putting up a sign… “Yeah, but ours is paid for!”

There is a lot to see there. The harbor is very touristy but we had a good time. We visited the old Hotel de Haro where the manager allowed us to see the President’s Room – so called because President Teddy Roosevelt stayed there. There was also a large “John Wayne Tub” that John Wayne himself had installed because the others were too small for him.

One of the first things you notice when sailing into Roach Harbor is a little church on the hill. The Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel performs mass every Sunday and is often used for weddings.

After visiting the chapel Willie and I took a long walk and found the cabins built for kiln workers years ago. The cabins have a wonderful view looking west over the Sound and are now rentals for the tourists.

The next day we heading to Stuart Island. This is one of my favorite islands. We tied up at a free floating dock (not attached to the land) and met a friendly man named Warren, a loner who sails Puget Sound every Summer all through the entire season.

He suggested we go see the little red school house on the west side of Stuart so we rowed to shore and walked a trail that lead to the old school. It turns out the school is still operating. It had three graduates last year.

The current school building is newer, but the original building and the teacher’s house are still there. The tiny house where the teacher used to stay (only 12’ x 15’) is now a little museum and the old schoolhouse is a library.

Though there was no one around, both buildings were open. You could even check out library books on your own. The honor system is a way of life on the island.

Along the trail we found t-shirts hanging between two trees. They were for sale to raise money for the school. Again there was no one there selling them. You simply pick out your size from a box that looks like a large treasure chest, take the shirt home, and then mail an enclosed envelop with your payment to the school. Try selling shirts that way on the mainland; I love the island lifestyle.

The next day, on our sail back home, things turned for the worst. Most of the way home was relaxed and beautiful, but about four miles out of home port I knew something was wrong. What started as a small pain in my gut soon grew worse. I laid down on the bed in our cabin while my wife motored the rest of the way in. Four miles is a long way in a sailboat going only 5 knots on a 10hp motor.

The pain got to be too much so I told Willie not to panic as I radioed for help. “Pahn-pan, pahn-pan, pahn-pan, this is the Fargone. We have a medical emergency on board.”

Bent over in pain I talked to the Coast Guard and explained the situation. I requested that they contact the Blaine Harbormaster and arrange for a EMT team to meet us at the visitor dock; I didn’t want to make my wife land in our slip because she hadn’t had experience maneuvering into the tiny space.

Two boats who heard the call came along side. The one, a beautiful big sloop, lead us into the harbor and to the visitor dock. Despite my pain, I was able to land our boat.

A security officer and a policeman tied our boat to the dock and the EMT’s wheeled me up the ramp and into the ambulance.

It turns out I had a bowel obstruction and was in the hospital for two days. The doctors told me it probably happened because I had eaten raw broccoli and didn’t chew it properly. They recommended not eating broccoli or other raw vegetables. That’s fine with me… I hate broccoli.

I got home on Wednesday and planned a solo sail for the next weekend. This got me into a lot of trouble with my wife, but that’s for another blog.